Gerald Jordan: An Old Soul In a Key Role
Nov. 21, 2017 by Malcolm Butler
RUSTON -- Gerald Jordan has been a busy man this fall.
With the rash of injuries that have plagued the Bulldogs since football season started in early September, the red-headed, bespectacled Louisiana Tech assistant athletics director for sports medicine has lapped most others in his position.
If he were a stock car, he would be past due for a pit stop. There is a lot of worn tread on his adidas tires.
This race car needs more fuel. Maybe an oil change. Definitely, new wheels. It's an analogy that would make him proud. After all, anyone who grows up in Mountain City, Tennessee, can appreciate a good NASCAR comparison. Gerald is no exception.
Ankle-wrap deep in his third year at the helm of the Louisiana Tech Sports Medicine Department, Gerald works in an industry that is constantly evolving. It has to for the benefit and well-being of athletes of all ages.
In his case, Louisiana Tech's student-athletes.
Sports medicine professionals focus on the present; it's the daily grind of rehab and recovery. They also keep an eye on the future with the constant advancement in medicine.
However, Gerald -- and those who know him best -- will tell you that away from the office he is a man who has a deep appreciation for the past. Simpler times.
Anyone who walks into his office or his home will get a good idea of Gerald's passions, outside of helping others. He loves his family; it's evident by the numerous photos of them scattered throughout his office. He loves the Lord; his bible sits on his desk.
And to a little lesser extent, he loves antiques and the sport of NASCAR. It's just some of what makes him so interesting.
"His love for both makes perfect sense," said Associate Athletics Trainer Mandy Miller. "He's just a good ole boy from small-town East Tennessee, so of course he loves NASCAR. Gerald the man is literally from another time, a throwback to simpler things. Antiquing just fits him. I really can't imagine him into anything else. He has such an appreciation of the history of things."
"What makes Gerald so interesting outside of work is his passion for antiquing and knowing random facts," said Assistant Athletic Trainer Adrianne Bosworth. "He knows a lot about history and has a lot of random knowledge. He is also very crafty. In my opinion, he was probably a carpenter in his past life. He knows how to fix almost anything with whatever is available to him."
Gerald came to Ruston after serving 12 years as the athletic trainer at Delta State in Cleveland, Mississippi. From Mountain City to Cleveland to Ruston, Gerald has an appreciation for the quaintness of life in a small town.
"When I was growing up in Mountain City, population 2,400, I couldn't wait to get out," said Gerald. "But now I can't wait to go back. I am enamored by yesterday. I like to surround myself with stuff that reminds me of a simpler time. It's a bit of a hobby. Some people hunt. Some people play golf. I antique."
Both hobbies were nurtured by his family, comprised of his parents and grandparents and plenty of aunts, uncles, cousins and more. He comes from a large family, and he lights up when he talks about them.
Many of the antiques he has throughout his house are family heirlooms.
"My great aunt Nancy Shaw (known as Aunt Rose) was into antiquing fairly heavily," said Gerald. "She lived in Burnsville, North Carolina. That always piqued my interest. My aunt and some of my mom's sisters liked old stuff. I wouldn't say anyone is junk drunk crazy, but I'm probably the worst of them."
Aunt Rose had an impact on "Little Jerry," a name Gerald is still affectionately called by many of his family when he goes back home to visit.
"We would go visit her a couple times a year and off to the antique store we would go," said Gerald. "She had stuff all over her house. She was a unique lady. One time she sent me a homemade cookbook. I opened the mail one day and there is a three-ring binder with recipes she put together for me."
What are some of Gerald's most prized possessions? It is next to impossible for him to name just one, or even two. How about his grandparents' first bedroom suite that was bought in the 1950s? It's located in the guest bedroom of his house. A rocking chair made out of grapevine by his great grandfather. An old crank phone that he bought at an auction; it's on one of the walls in his house.
And plenty of old signs. Pepsi signs. Old telephone signs. An old Dr. Swett's Rootbeer sign. They may be just old pieces of broken down past to most, but not to "Little Jerry."
"The story behind it is more important than what it is," said Gerald. "I like the stuff, but the story intrigues me as much as anything."
The Dr. Swett's Rootbeer sign, for example.
"It's a local piece that came out of old Butler (a town in Johnson County, Tennessee)," he said. "There is an old Butler and a new Butler. Old Butler was flooded in the late '40s by the Tennessee Valley Authority to create a lake. The stories behind (the signs) intrigue me more than what they are."
His antiques aren't only displayed in his house. In fact, the Tech student-athletes get to see a lot of his collection in the Dr. Billy Bundrick Sports Medicine Center located in the Charles Wyly Athletic Center. And as one might expect, these antiques are more health-care oriented.
"Most of the actual sports medicine stuff, like Cramer and Johnson & Johnson, I find that on eBay," said Gerald. "Old products. Whether that's Cramergesic, or an old splint bag, or an old stim machine from the '70s. Old medicine containers, dispensers: the packaging was valuable to people too. Just little small things, whatever I can find. Even old medical books or literature."
A display case full of these antique medical items sits in the corner of the training room. Gerald said they are quite the conversation pieces.
"The thing that has been interesting to me is that it piques people's interest," he said. "Anything is a good conversation piece that can lead into something else, whether that's an old trophy or an award or an old item. I may only be 38, but I'm probably much closer to decades earlier. I grew up in the wrong generation so to speak.
"It doesn't bother me at all. It gives you an appreciation for how things used to be. Everything now is some ready-made package thing. That always hasn't been around. Coaches or scouts and even the student-athletes have noticed (the antiques). A lot of them will start a conversation because of some of this. I enjoy it."
His love for antiques is equaled by his love for NASCAR.
"That I get from my dad, bigtime," said Gerald, who went by Jerry until he attended East Tennessee State University for his undergrad. There he worked for Jerry Robertson, the longtime, legendary athletic trainer at that university.
"One of the assistant's said we can only have one Jerry, so I had to choose another name," he said. "So I went back to Gerald, my birth name. I'm still known as Little Jerry back home by most."
Little Jerry and "Big" Jerry and Uncle Terry -- Big Jerry's identical twin brother -- are all big racing fans.
"Dad was a Bobby Allison fan," said Gerald. "When I was a little kid, Bobby Allison had a bad accident. At that time, Dale Earnhardt was coming into the fold as far as being a big household name. Dad followed him. It just stuck. After church on Sundays, we got to watch the race, fall asleep in the middle of it and wake up for the end of it. I went to several of them."
These days, Gerald says he really doesn't have a favorite driver although if forced to give a name it would probably be Chase Elliott. He also is honest about his lack of knowledge of the actual stock cars themselves.
"Mechanically, I couldn't tell you a thing," said Gerald. "But I'm enamored by it. I've always followed it. Plus it was a huge part of the people in the area where I grew up -- Tobacco Row. Tobacco Row in North Carolina.
"My first race was in 1986, the October race of Rockingham Motor Speedway. We lived there in North Carolina for about three years. That was Mark Martin's first win. He drove the No. 6 Stroh's Light Ford Thunderbird. My dad and Uncle Terry took me."
As the sport has evolved, so too has the evolution of the pit crews. According to the resident expert, these days most bigtime drivers have both strength coaches and athletic trainers as part of their pit crews. And most pit crews are made up of a lot of former collegiate athletes.
At Louisiana Tech, Gerald has his own sports medicine "pit crew" comprised of Miller and Assistant Athletic Trainers Byron Pottorff, Arredondo and Bosworth, graduate assistants Bryn Crowder, Kayla Wincko, Chris Williams, Sven Pearson, and Brittany Luttrell, and intern Emily Eunice. Oh, and a host of volunteer students.
It's a well-oiled machine, pardon the pun. And it's all because of the request of a junior high teacher in Johnson County, Tennessee, more than 25 years ago.
"I knew I wanted to be an athletic trainer since my sophomore year in high school," said Gerald. "I don't have very much, if any, athletic ability in my body. I never played an organized sport as a child. Not tee ball. Not little league. Not pee wee football or flag football. I never did any of it."
However, following in Big Jerry and Uncle Terry's footsteps -- the brothers served as managers during their high school days -- Gerald began his career path in junior high when his seventh grade math teacher Darin Chaplain asked him to become a manager for the Johnson County Middle School football team.
"I did that my seventh grade year, my eighth grade year, and then went to high school and did the same thing," said Gerald. "We had an outreach athletic trainer from East Tennessee State that would come up on Friday nights. I was just interested in that.
"Cramer Sports Medicine used to have summer student trainer workshops for high school students. The summer between my sophomore and junior year, I went to the Cramer basic workshop at Vanderbilt. The summer between my junior and senior year, I went to the advanced workshop at Austin Peay University. My junior and senior year, I taped ankles and all that fun stuff. Then I went to East Tennessee State, and I have been doing it ever since."
Louisiana Tech's student-athletes and the sports medicine "pit crew" are the beneficiaries of Gerald's professionalism, commitment and true concern for them on and off the playing fields.
"He is the first one in the door and the last one out," said Arredondo. "He ensures his staff is taken care of and that every single student-athlete gets the best medical care possible. Gerald is the true definition of what it is like to be a leader rather than a boss. He is basically the cogs in the machine that keeps us going when we get tired or frustrated. He is the greatest asset our department has."
"He really loves what he does, and he honestly cares for each and every student-athlete at Tech," said Miller. "He understands the demand our job has and the stress it can bring. His door is always open, for either personal or professional guidance. He is one of the best bosses I've ever had the pleasure of working for. Tech is lucky to have him."
Gerald disagrees. He says he and Tech are lucky to have his entire pit crew.
"They have more miles on their adidas tires than I do," said Gerald. "I can guarantee it, especially at football. I end up all over the place some days and not always at practice. They tote a heavy load."
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